This past summer, AFMI partnered with Oakland Unified School District’s APISA (Asian Pacific Islander Student Achievement) Initiative to realize its first video and digital literacy workshop for Arab, Muslim and newcomer youth in Oakland, CA.
The program was initiated by a young Yemeni American student, Meelan Mohsin, an APISA intern, who had identified a need among fellow Yemeni American and Arab American students for a better grasp of audiovisual culture. She named the initiative Takalam to signify how video can be used “to uplift voices for advocacy, representation, and civic engagement” in her community.
With the help of accomplished AFMI filmmakers (Sara Maamouri, Khalid Eid, and Nadia Shihab), a group of students ranging from 13 to 17 years old came together three days a week for five weeks to conceive, produce and edit their first short film.
The first day of the workshop coincided with the Supreme Court upholding the travel ban affecting majority Muslim countries. The Takalam students decided to use the film to examine how the ban was affecting their communities. After familiarizing themselves with the cameras and sound recording equipment, they criss-crossed the San Francisco Bay Area interviewing individuals throughout the Yemeni, Syrian and Muslim communities about their lived experience, as well as experts on immigration law and activists. In addition to the interviews, the short included the reading of a poem, “A letter to Donald Trump,” written by one of the students, and read in English and Arabic. During the workshop, students learned how to formulate good interview questions, how to frame a moving image, where to find open source video and how to tell a visual story.
The students’ got the opportunity to premiere their short film at the 22nd annual Arab Film Festival during its run at the New Parkway theatre in Oakland in October 2018, where the student filmmakers also took questions from the audience.